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Bible Commentaries
Revelation 18

Luscombe's Commentary on Selected Books of the NTLuscombe's NT Commentary

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The most common view among Christians is that this harlot is either Rome, the city; Rome, the government or empire; or Rome, the seat of the papacy. Many see this chapter as the fall of the civil Roman Empire in 476.

I do not believe that this chapter seeks to write history. Where is the encouragement to suffering, hurting and persecuted Christians in 96? How does it help them to know that almost 300 years later the government will fall? If our premise is valid, that the book must offer support and encouragement to the first century church, then writing history 300 years (or 2000 years) later is of little help.

Woodruff offers several reasons why he rejects this chapter as dealing with the fall of Rome.

1. It fails to apply the meaning of the great harlot and Babylon as they are used in the Bible.

2. It takes away any meaning it might have for Christians who live during other periods of world history.

3. It forces the interpretation of chapter 17 to also deal specifically with Rome.

4. The things that undergo destruction in chapter 18 are destroyed forever. But, the city and nation of Rome did once again exist and exists today. (1, 316-317)

The picture painted in graphic detail in this chapter is the ultimate doom of the immoral. Babylon, the great harlot, the one who led people into fornication, is destined for destruction.

Immorality has a strong hold on our politics and economy. Think about the drug dealer. There are the growers, the ones who fly planeloads into the county, the cars that distribute these drugs, the kingpin that distributes these drugs to dealers and the young person who steals to get the money to buy the drugs. If drugs suddenly stopped, think of how the ripples would affect many lives. The same is true with other forms of immoral behavior.

The message of this chapter is: There will come a day of reckoning. God will punish all the wicked. Not just the person doing an immoral deed. God will punish the drug grower, distributor, seller and user. Do not think, because one has gotten away with a sin, and even seems to prosper in their wickedness, that the sin is unpunished. To Christians - remain faithful to God. It may cost you your life, but God will mete out the punishment.

Verse 1

1 After these things I saw another angel coming down from heaven, having great authority, and the earth was illuminated with his glory.

A. An angel comes down from heaven. This angel has great power.

B. The angel has power to announce. He also has power to act and judge.

Verse 2

2 And he cried mightily with a loud voice, saying, “Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen, and has become a dwelling place of demons, a prison for every foul spirit, and a cage for every unclean and hated bird!

A. Babylon is one of the terms studied in the previous chapter. This announcement from the angel adds some information about Babylon.

B. She has already been called the “mother of harlots” and guilty of fornication.

C. Notice the terms added to this description.

 She has become a dwelling place of demons.

 She is a jail for foul spirits.

 She is a cage for every unclean and hated bird.

D. Those are strong terms. Demons, foul spirits, unclean, hated are used here. Babylon is also described with terms of confinement - Dwelling place, prison, and cage.

Verse 3

3 For all the nations have drunk of the wine of the wrath of her fornication, the kings of the earth have committed fornication with her, and the merchants of the earth have become rich through the abundance of her luxury.”

A. People of all nations have fallen at the feet of immorality. All nations have participated in fornication. They have committed fornication with her.

B. The second part of this verse makes reference to the control of world wealth. The great harlot has, in promoting immorality, made many people rich.

C. Think about pornography for a minute. Many are made rich in the filming, production, and sale of such pictures. The same is true with gambling, prostitution, alcohol and many other immoral matters.

Verse 4

4 And I heard another voice from heaven saying, “Come out of her, my people, lest you share in her sins, and lest you receive of her plagues.

A. God expects his people to be separate from sin. Baptism puts us on the other side of the river. The water of baptism separates us from our former life of sin.

B. 2Co_6:14-18 is a clear passage in which Christians are commanded to “come out from among them.” We are commanded not to participate (touch) things that are unclean.

C. If you don’t participate in the unclean activity, you will not suffer the plagues. If you refuse to engage in homosexual activity or share drug needles, you will not get AIDS. If you do not involve yourself in fornication, then STD is not a threat.

Verse 5

5 For her sins have reached to heaven, and God has remembered her iniquities.

A. God knows who has shared a role in immoral activity.

B. God will remember their sins. Men will be judged by the deeds done while here on earth, good or bad. ( 2Co_5:10 )

Verse 6

6 Render to her just as she rendered to you, and repay her double according to her works; in the cup which she has mixed, mix double for her.

A. The great harlot will be rewarded as she rewarded those who worshiped her. Those who thought of immorality as their god, were rewarded with AIDS, STD, poverty, sickness, disease, broken homes, shattered lives and ruined reputations.

B. God has always promised that all will be judged and rewarded according to their works.

C. Gal_6:7-9 teaches the principle of sowing and reaping. We will reap what we sow. If our sowing was in fleshly (immoral) things, we will reap corruption. If we sow to the spirit, we will reap eternal life.

D. God promises a double portion of punishment. The reason is this: When man chooses to sin, he will suffer. When man leads, persuades, and encourages others to sin, there is greater responsibility for leading others into sin. Jam_3:1 shows that the teacher who leads others astray will suffer “greater punishment.”

Verse 7

7 In the measure that she glorified herself and lived luxuriously, in the same measure give her torment and sorrow; for she says in her heart, ‘I sit as queen, and am no widow, and will not see sorrow.’

A. In this life immorality seems to “live it up” in luxury. Many immoral sins are seen by the world as good, exciting, fun and normal. There is a concerted effort, for example, on the part of homosexual groups to make their sinful lifestyle acceptable and normal.

B. Many lived in luxury on the profits from such sins. Think about Hugh Hefner and the “Playboy Mansion.” God pronounces that in the same measure that they enjoyed the luxuries, they will suffer the greater torment.

C. Immorality thinks that it is invincible. People who act upon these immoral impulses never think they will get caught.

Verse 8

8 Therefore her plagues will come in one day-death and mourning and famine. And she will be utterly burned with fire, for strong is the Lord God who judges her.

A. There is a payday. There is a day of reckoning. She will suffer the plagues that she has caused on others.

B. Babylon will suffer death, mourning and famine. Just as she lived in luxury, now she will suffer torment.

C. The final end will be a burning with fire, because God is the one who judges.

Verse 9

9 “The kings of the earth who committed fornication and lived luxuriously with her will weep and lament for her, when they see the smoke of her burning,

A. The kings (civil governments) lived in luxury. They, the kings, made an alliance with Babylon. They passed laws that allowed immorality to become legal and acceptable.

B. They will see the results. They see the smoke of her torment. They will weep because, if immorality goes out of popularity, they will suffer loss.

Verse 10

10 standing at a distance for fear of her torment, saying, ‘Alas, alas, that great city Babylon, that mighty city! For in one hour your judgment has come.’

A. These kings now seek to distance themselves from her. They were responsible for her success. Now that she is being punished, they try to say, “It is not my fault.”

B. Babylon was a mighty city, but now it has been judged.”

Verse 11

11 “And the merchants of the earth will weep and mourn over her, for no one buys their merchandise anymore:

A. All the merchants of immorality are in mourning. The source of their income is going up in smoke.

B. The filth shops, the drug dealers, and the porno sales on the Internet are exposed for the filth and corruption they have been selling. But, it is too late.

Verses 12-13

12 merchandise of gold and silver, precious stones and pearls, fine linen and purple, silk and scarlet, every kind of citron wood, every kind of object of ivory, every kind of object of most precious wood, bronze, iron, and marble; 13 and cinnamon and incense, fragrant oil and frankincense, wine and oil, fine flour and wheat, cattle and sheep, horses and chariots, and bodies and souls of men.

A. All the fine gold chains of the pimp, all the fancy cars of the drug dealer, have become the souls and bodies of men. The fine mansion of Hugh Hefner has become the lost souls of all the lives he has corrupted.

B. What was glitter, gold, jewels and material things, now is disease, filth, corruption and death.

Verse 14

14 The fruit that your soul longed for has gone from you, and all the things which are rich and splendid have gone from you, and you shall find them no more at all.

A. There is an old proverb, “The chickens have come home to roost.” We need to be reminded that sometimes we think the wicked are getting away with their sins. Not true. God will punish them. They will suffer.

B. The entire splendor is gone. All the gold and silver is tarnished. All the material things do not exist.

Verses 15-16

15 The merchants of these things, who became rich by her, will stand at a distance for fear of her torment, weeping and wailing, 16and saying, ‘Alas, alas, that great city that was clothed in fine linen, purple, and scarlet, and adorned with gold and precious stones and pearls!

A. Just as the kings sought to distance themselves, so do the merchants. The people, who got rich because of the immorality of the world, are now seeking to remove themselves from her.

B. They see the torment. They hear the weeping and wailing. They know that punishment has come upon the mother of harlots.

Verses 17-18

17 For in one hour such great riches came to nothing.’ Every shipmaster, all who travel by ship, sailors, and as many as trade on the sea, stood at a distance 18 and cried out when they saw the smoke of her burning, saying, ‘What is like this great city?’

A. The term “merchants” includes all who trafficked in this immorality.

B. This would include the movie theaters that showed the films. It includes the truck drivers that distribute the alcohol and the airplane pilots that fly the drugs into the country.

Verse 19

19 “They threw dust on their heads and cried out, weeping and wailing, and saying, ‘Alas, alas, that great city, in which all who had ships on the sea became rich by her wealth! For in one hour she is made desolate.’

A. All the profiteers are in mourning. The source of their gain is gone.

B.“In one hour” all the gain is gone. She is made desolate. All who supported her, promoted her immorality, and all who profited by the evil products she produced are going down with her.

Verse 20

20 “Rejoice over her, O heaven, and you holy apostles and prophets, for God has avenged you on her!”

A. God promises that vengeance belongs to Him. Our God will repay the evil that we suffer.

B. Heaven (angels and martyrs) rejoice. They are not rejoicing because someone is suffering. They are rejoicing because their faithfulness has been vindicated.

C. These Christians remained faithful. They suffered ridicule and scorn for speaking out and objecting to the immorality in the world. Now, their faith in God has been proven to be valid. The Christians have been justified in their faith.

Verse 21

21 Then a mighty angel took up a stone like a great millstone and threw it into the sea, saying, “Thus with violence the great city Babylon shall be thrown down, and shall not be found anymore.

A. A powerful angel stands up with a great stone. This huge stone is thrown into the sea.

B. The symbol of throwing a large stone into the sea shows - the speed with which this doom comes. It will not happen slowly or quietly. It will happen like a huge splash.

C. The great city is thrown down. God has judged immorality and all connected with it.

Verse 22

22 The sound of harpists, musicians, flutists, and trumpeters shall not be heard in you anymore. No craftsman of any craft shall be found in you anymore, and the sound of a millstone shall not be heard in you anymore.

A. All the “pleasure” associated with evil and immorality has been stopped. No more music or celebrations. No one is getting rich. Small businesses fail.

B. All the skilled craftsmen (all who used their skills to produce these immoral products) have no place to use their skills.

Verse 23

23 The light of a lamp shall not shine in you anymore, and the voice of bridegroom and bride shall not be heard in you anymore. For your merchants were the great men of the earth, for by your sorcery all the nations were deceived.

A. All the glitter is gone. The candle has been blown out.

B. All who are “married” to the immoral activity are gone. All who made a profit from the immoral activity have disappeared.

C. All who were deceived are also punished.

Verse 24

24 And in her was found the blood of prophets and saints, and of all who were slain on the earth.”

A. Immorality is NOT a victimless crime. When a person commits fornication - a spouse, children, extended families, friends, the church, are also harmed. One person’s immoral activity can, in fact, cause death to the saints.

B. God does punish the immoral.

Bibliographical Information
Luscombe, Manly. "Commentary on Revelation 18". Luscombe's Commentary on Selected Books of the NT. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/mlc/revelation-18.html. 2021.
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